February 9, 2014

Milkweed Does A Body Good

Good morning and greetings, precipitation fans. Well, some rain fell on our drought ravaged central coast last week, but forecasters and soothsayers claim that it was not nearly enough to make up for what so far has been one of the driest rainy seasons on record. What the weather boys and girls are basically saying is that we would have to double the amount of rainfall over the next four months to get back to the normal.

Now that could happen, just like the Democrats and Republicans back in Washington getting together to agree on tax cuts, jobs growth, health care, federal spending and gun rights. I’ll just put away my umbrella for now. As I’ve often remarked, I love walking in the rain because then no one knows I’m crying.

Or as my daughter Aimee says, “I like to cry at the ocean because only there do my tears look small.”

On to another unfortunate subject. In a story written by Mark Stevenson for the Associated Press, there is trouble in the world of the danaus plexippus, which for you non-scientists, are monarch butterflies.

Back in late January, experts and four out of five lepidopterists (butterfly specialists) who recommend milkweed for their patients, say that the incredible and little-understood annual migration of millions of Monarch butterflies spending the winter in Mexico is in danger of disappearing. This was after their numbers dropped to their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1993, as reported by researchers from the Sinaloa Drug Cartel.

The big problem is the loss of the milkweed plant that the monarchs feed on for survival. The finger of blame is being pointed at the genetically modified crops and urban sprawl in the United States and extreme weather trends, along with the dramatic reduction of the butterflies’ habitat in Mexico due to illegal logging of the trees they depend on for shelter and orange flight.

After steep and steady declines in the previous three years, the orange-and-black butterflies now cover only 1.65 acres in the pine and fir forests west of Mexico City, compared to 2.93 acres last year. They covered more than 44.5 acres at their recorded peak in 1996. That was also the year that Lisa Marie Presley filed for divorce from Michael Jackson, though I don’t think there is any connection.

Because the monarchs clump together by the thousands in trees, they pay very little in rent and utilities, and are counted by the area they cover.

While the Monarch is not in danger of extinction, the decline in their population is not a happy thought for butterfly or pinata lovers. For you statistics nuts, it has morphed into a long-term trend and can no longer be seen as just a year-by-year or seasonal event, like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano or the running of the Bulls in Chicago.

The announcement came on the heels of the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or what we in the business call NAFTA, which saw the United States, Mexico and Canada sign environmental accords to protect migratory species such as the Monarch. And according to my sources at the U.S. Customs, the Border Patrol and Baja Fresh, that is the last thing these three countries were in agreement on.

Lincoln Brower, a leading entomologist at Sweet Briar College in Virginia and one of my favorite experts on bugs says, “The main culprit is now genetically modified herbicide-resistant corn and soybean crops and herbicides in the USA, which leads to the wholesale killing of the monarch’s principal food plant, common milkweed.”

This is particularly true in the midwest, where most of the butterflies migrate from. Extreme weather, including severe cold snaps, unusually heavy rains and droughts in all three countries have also played a role in the decline. Hey, but if Sarah Palin says there’s no proof of global warming, that’s good enough for me.

As we know, the migration of monarch butterflies to our California coast has been in steep decline, so we should step up and start planting our own weed, er milkweed, to help out the cause.

In Mexico, their annual trek is the world’s biggest migration of Monarch butterflies and the third-largest insect migration in the world, after a species of dragonfly in Africa and mosquitos coming in through my screen door in the summertime. The migration is a source of pride and heritage to the people of this region and should not be lost or stolen.

Writer and environmentalist Homero Aridjis says, “The governments of the United States and Canada have washed their hands of the problem, and left it all to Mexico. I think President Obama should take some step to support the survival of the Monarch butterflies.”

President Obama is scheduled to visit Mexico on February 19, with events scheduled for Toluca, a city a few dozen miles from the Monarch’s reserve. Then he’ll knock back a couple of chimichangas, down a Corona and try not to see any decapitated heads along the roadside before heading back on Air Force One.

So I say this. There are plenty of monarchs throughout the world, so there is no danger of extinction. But as our Commander in Chief, if you were man enough to call the shots so that Osama Bin Laden to now sleeping with the fishes, you could probably figure out of way to make life easier for our little fluttering friends. Or as Michelle whispered to you in the White House garden, “If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.”

So on that note, today I’m featuring some monarch butterfly shots from some classic westside locations. We’re talking Natural Bridges State Park, the Alan Chadwick Gardens at UCSC and the parking lot outside Subway. As they say, “Think fresh, eat fresh. The way a sandwich should be.”

Or in the words of Conan O’Brien, “Subway has announced a major new campaign to get people to eat healthier. I’m no health expert, but maybe the first thing to do is not sell people piles of meat and bread by the foot.”

On to some late night. “The Seahawks had a great slogan: “Why not us?” That’s what they would say to each other before the game. That is much better than the Broncos’ slogan: “Hey, why not hike it over the quarterback’s head?” People were partying in Seattle on Sunday night after the game. They were singing, they were laughing, they were hugging complete strangers, dancing in the streets. Basically, the same thing they’ve done every night in Seattle since they legalized marijuana.” – Jay Leno

“It wasn’t much of a Super Bowl game. The Seahawks beat the Broncos 43-8. You know how after the game the winning players go to Disney World? Some of the Seahawks went halfway through the third quarter. It cost $4 million for a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. I’m always surprised at which companies elect to pay that. How did a pistachio company afford $4 million? What kind of mark-up are they getting on those nuts?” – Jimmy Kimmel

“After appearing in a commercial during last night’s Super Bowl, people are accusing Bob Dylan of selling out. Today Dylan responded by saying, “Everyone needs to calm down, have a Bud Light, and relax at a Sandals Resort.” – Conan O’Brien “The NFL announced that veteran referee Terry McAulay will lead the referee crew at Sunday’s Super Bowl. So if you had him in your referee pool . . . please contact Gambler’s Anonymous. You have a problem.” – Jimmy Fallon

“Hillary Clinton is encouraging Hispanic families to read to their kids. She’s also telling Asian families to ease up on the math so the rest of us can catch up.” – Conan O’Brien “CVS is no longer selling cigarettes. They say, “It’s the right thing to do for our customers and our company in their path for better health.” I go to CVS all the time. If they want to promote better health, maybe they should stop selling Cheese Whiz, Circus Peanuts, Little Debbie jelly rolls and all the ingredients for meth.”- Jimmy Kimmel

So that’s the show. We’ll catch you blazing away like an all-star point guard and keeping your team in the playoff hunt in the western conference. Aloha, mahalo and later, Goran Dragic fans.

2 Comments »

  1. Thank you Pineapple Express for the wet visit this past weekend. Great blog this morning… Thanks!

    Comment by Babs — February 10, 2014 @ 8:45 am

  2. I remember the monarchs in Santa Cruz every Thanksgiving in the early 90′s. And what a site it was!

    Comment by Wendi — February 13, 2014 @ 11:01 pm

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